Did you brush your teeth today? Chances are, you did. Did you brush your pet’s teeth today? No? How about in the the last month? …The last year!?… EVER? If you answered no to these questions, you’re not alone. Pet dental health is frequently overlooked in dogs and cats alike, resulting in 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffering from oral disease by the age of 3 years.
“But they’re animals and you’ve seen where they put those mouths! Their breath is supposed to stink!”
Not quite! Your pet’s dental health is extremely important to their well being. Proper maintenance and care can prevent that bad breath (even if they do think poop is a delicacy…). We’re wrapping up Pet Dental Health Month with ways to keep your pet’s teeth clean, stench-free and functional for years to come!
Why Pet Dental Health is So Important
“Doggy breath” is thought to be normal and sometimes endearing but unfortunately, it’s abnormal and a sign of possible problems in your pet’s mouth. While a pet’s dental health refers to their mouth as a whole, the most commonly effected tissues are the teeth and gums. Lack of dental care can result in problems such as build up on the teeth, inflammation and infection in the gums, gum recession, tooth root abscesses and tooth loss.
Not only do these problems result in pain and difficulty eating for your pets but they can actually threaten the health of of vital organs. Advanced stages of dental disease can result in the bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream, eventually effecting the kidneys, liver and heart. For this reason, proper dental care is essential to helping your pet live a long, healthy life.
Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth
Brushing your pet’s teeth is one of the best ways you can improve their dental health. Just like humans, using proper brushing techniques and pet-friendly toothpaste will help prevent plaque buildup and promote clean, strong gums. Our friends at Oxford Veterinary Hospital recommend a minimum of twice per week for cats and three times per week for dogs.
Brushing your pet’s teeth may not be the easiest thing to do but with patience, training and providing a positive experience, it can be done. Meat and seafood flavored toothpaste can make teeth brushing a real treat for your pet! Pet Sitters International provide great tips to teach your pet how to LOVE their tooth brushing sessions.
Chews and Toys
Just the simple act of chewing can greatly contribute to your pet’s dental health. Products such as bully sticks, bones and rubber toys rub against a dog’s teeth, removing plaque and build up as they chew. Some of these chews and toys will be marketed for their teeth cleaning benefits.
Vets caution pet owners to do their research before providing their dogs with certain chew-promoting products. Very hard material, such as hoof, can cause teeth to chip and break. Rawhide can actually cause choking and intestinal blockages due to its lack of digestibility. Toys and chews alike should be purchased in the appropriate sizes for your dog.
There are also many treats on the market that can help contribute to your pet’s dental health. As with all toys and treats, pet owners should do research and speak with their veterinarian prior to choosing a product for their pet.
Greenies are an extremely common and popular choice for dogs and cats alike. They are highly digestible, easy to find and can also leave your pet with a “fresh” scent to their breath. Oravet chews have been recommended to me by my veterinarian and worked wonders for my Jack Russell mix’s bad breath! The options are vast and proper research will allow you to choose the very best option for your fur baby.
Exams and Cleanings
Exams and cleanings are the one thing you can’t provide at home yet are vital to your pet’s dental health. Exams allow your veterinarian to examine teeth and gums for signs of disease before they turn into costly procedures and surgeries down the road. A full veterinary cleaning involves putting a pet under general anesthesia. This allows the vet to remove plaque and tartar both above and below the gum line that you could never reach at home! Discuss the need for a cleaning at your next vet appointment. They will be happy you asked!
The Pet Dental Health Options Are Endless
The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg where pet dental products are concerned. Dental wipes are an alternative to using a toothbrush and toothpaste for brushing. Water additives claim to prevent bacterial growth and plaque build up. Each option has its own pros and cons.
The correct products for you and your pets combined with exams, cleanings and guidance from your veterinarian will help your dog or cat live a long, healthy, happy life with fresh breath to boot!